As a career coach, I’ve found it’s ever so clear when people are working out of alignment with their core values. It can be a miserable and even devastating experience. Interestingly, unhappy professionals often know something is terribly wrong, but can’t pinpoint exactly what is making them feel so disrespected, undervalued and unappreciated.
In many cases, it’s a serious clash in values. I lived this for years in my corporate life, not really understanding the root cause of my deep discomfort and dissatisfaction – that the values I held dear were not able to be honored in my work. In several jobs, I felt that my employers’ behavior, mission and culture clashed fiercely with what I held to be good, true and respectable. And for me, finding a halfway meeting point in these cases just wasn’t possible. What can we do when this situation arises?
Excited to learn more about values clarification and how we can honor our values in our work and transform our lives, I caught up this week with Karen Kimsey-House. One of the earliest recognized luminaries in the coaching profession, Karen is CEO and Co-Founder of The Coaches Training Institute (CTI), a highly respected coach training organization. Karen is also is a blogger for The Huffington Post and the co-author of Co-Active Coaching, the best-selling coaching resource, now in its third edition. A successful entrepreneur committed to pioneering Co-Activity in challenged environments and troubled populations, Kimsey-House continues to lead CTI workshops and is a dynamic keynote speaker around the world.
Here’s Karen’s take on values:
Kathy Caprino: What’s important about identifying your own personal values as an employee, as distinct from the organization’s declared values?
Karen Kimsey-House: The experience of disengagement and, worse, burn out, is often attributed to a culture of long hours in which discretionary effort is expected without acknowledgement. However, what is more likely the case is that individual employees feel disconnected from the organization because they have no reference point, or internal compass of their own, by which to consider and evaluate the company’s stated values and purpose. Most people really want to contribute. They long to be useful and feel they are a part of something larger than themselves. Knowing our values provides a pathway to make that contribution in a meaningful way. From there, as the individual’s values are re-affirmed by the organization it self, true engagement is possible.
Caprino: What are the top three ways of identifying and clarifying your values?
Kimsey-House: There are many ways to identify your values, but one powerful way is to focus on identifying qualities or virtues which were present during times of success or expansion in your life, or, absent during times of failure or contraction.
Ask yourself these questions:
When were your values most alive?
Review several peak experiences to identify those virtues, behaviors or qualities which were most present when you were most alive and self expressed.
When were they missing?
Review setbacks or failures in your life, but this time ask yourself which virtues, qualities or behaviors were missing, which would have made a difference to the outcome.
In the world, who demonstrates values that inspire you?
To really dig deep into what’s most important to you, look out into the world at large, and ask what’s missing in the conduct of someone who challenges you the most, or what’s present in someone who’s inspires you. It’s these values, which are likely to be those you’ll be most willing to take a stand for.
Once you have identified a range of values, the next step is to clarify how they are unique to you. (Download our clarification exercise to help.) Remember, although some values are universal, what makes values distinct from morals is they are defined by how you choose to express them. The value of ‘adventure’ for example, may be expressed by one individual completely differently from another.
Caprino: Karen, how can we enliven and honor our values, so we continue to grow as we progress as a professional and an employee?
Kimsey-House: The best way to do this is to recognize the intrinsic relationship between your personal values, and how you fulfill your potential as a leader within the organization.
Of course, if you assume the only person who can be a leader is ‘the boss’ this won’t serve you. However, if you recognize that leadership can also be defined as ‘our capacity to take responsibility for the world around us,’ then everyone within an organization has the potential to lead, even at a junior level. By definition, embracing our leadership must begin within, with a better understanding of who I am?? , and the values that I take a stand for. This can become a set point for shaping a guiding purpose to serve the greater growth of the world around me – in this case the organization.
Caprino: What happens when we’re working with people who value different things and there’s a big clash? What can we do to align our values with the different values of our colleagues, to enhance collaboration?
Kimsey-House:Aligning your values with the values of another requires a willingness to see where they overlap, rather than focus on the places where they might conflict. That’s the first step towards establishing the common ground on which you can collaborate.
For example while one colleague may value order and process highly, and the other spontaneity and creative flair, (which could be perceived as a source of conflict), nevertheless there is a clear point of alignment around the fact that both honor self-expression.
To really be successful, this kind of conversation will need to be rooted in a shared commitment to serve the organization’s (and each other’s) greater good, and may benefit from the use of some basic coaching skills such as deep listening, acknowledgement, and powerful questions.
Caprino: What can we do when we discover that some or even all of our values are not congruent with the values represented by the organization’s purpose, mission and culture?
Kimsey-House: Having our personal values persistently trashed or ignored is never life affirming and can be a truly horrible experience. If this happens to you as an employee, it would be understandable if you decided to leave the organization. However, as an employee willing to embrace his/her own leadership, this disconnection between the personal and collective, could be something to be curious about. Conflict or disagreement is often an opportunity for deeper understanding and or creativity, and so it’s quite possible that the values you uphold personally are exactly what the organization itself requires to evolve.
In this way, knowing our own values is foundational to our ability to boldly step forward and bravely speak the unspoken. As you articulate what you perceive is missing, you’ll see whether the organization is willing to transform, resistant to change, or happy with the status quo. Either way you’ll have new information to assess against the compass of your personal values, before you decide upon your next action.
Read the original article on Forbes.